Flashback: Hausmaler Decoration on Fayence and Porcelain

April 16th, 2010

This article discusses hausmaler, individual German painters who worked on fayence or porcelain, noting some specific artists and their designs. It originally appeared in the November 1945 issue of American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antiques collectors and dealers.

This is a province of Germanic art not known to many of us. If there are no awe inspiring peaks and no big rushing streams it is nevertheless a pleasant landscape. Of course hausmaler, literally house painters, are a far cry from the evil Adolf. They were home painters, individuals seeking realization of their artistic ambition and in most cases, added income.

Illustration I: By Johann Schaper: This glass beaker on three round knob feet is a very early example of his work.

Illustration I: By Johann Schaper: This glass beaker on three round knob feet is a very early example of his work.

Sometimes they were modest, underpaid factory workers; sometimes gentlemen of leisure or itinerant artists. It was always the initiative of the individual against the factory. Also we must have in mind that Germany of the 17th Century was not yet the Prussianized, imperialistic Reich forged by Bismark. There were many minor potentates and it was only during the later half of the hausmaler period that Frederick II, King of Prussia, made his successful bid for aggrandizement and power.

We can roughly divide the hausmaler as those who painted on fayence and those who painted on porcelain, the latter of course a much finer ware with a lustrous, smooth surface.

The first fayence factories being founded in Hanau and the nearby Frankfurt in 1661 and 1666, they began by allowing undecorated ware to come into other hands. It was deemed good publicity if a finely painted, signed piece by an outsider created a larger demand also for the factory ware. But with growing industrialization this policy was reversed and the hausmaler became definitely an unwanted competitor. If a factory employed good painters they didn’t want them to sell signed pieces painted at home because that might make them famous and another factory might try to get them away with a better offer.

Illustration II: Fayence Jug by Shaper: An example of "Schwarzlot" painting done circa 5665, the piece has copper-gilt mountings.

Illustration II: Fayence Jug by Shaper: An example of "Schwarzlot" painting done circa 5665, the piece has copper-gilt mountings.

Technically all hausmaler decoration was overglaze, low fired and the start was made with glass painting in a very restricted color scheme. This was called “Schwarzlot,” black with sparse use of iron red and gold. As to the style, we can say that the fayence painting was definitely Germanic; later the decoration of porcelain followed the different styles, French, Dutch, and the Chinese vogue. We find the main centers of the hausmaler art in the southern and middle part of Germany also spreading to Bohemia and Vienna. The period runs from the second half of the 17th Century through the 18th. We may add that only illustrations in color could do full justice to the contrast and interplay of different colors and hues sometimes heightened by intricate gold ornaments.

The first artist of note to open the long line was Johann Schaper born in the old free town of Hamburg, baptized there in 1621 but working in Nuremburg, once the center of the goldsmiths, the painters and the etchers art and also in Regensburg, at that time a town of far greater importance than later. Here Schaper was commissioned by the French Ambassador Granelle with a substantial order for stained glass panels, because with Schaper it had been first glass painting on flat and hollow ware before he turned to fayence and here he can be considered as the inventor of the forementioned “Schwarzlot” painting.

His undecorated ware he probably obtained from a small unknown factory in northern Bavaria because already the large factories became reluctant to send their wares to outsiders. The first known and signed work of Schaper dates from 1663. All his art and diligence couldn’t bring him enough material reward; he died without leaving any substantial estate in 1670. (Illustrations I and II.)

It is interesting to note that during Schaper’s time, for about a century, roughly from 1660 to 1760, Nuremberg attracted quite a number of fine hausmaler. We find the remarkable Hermann Benckert from Sweden working there about 1678; Abraham Helmhack 1654 to 1724 (Illustration III), who, like Schaper, had started as a glass painter; Johann Ludwig Faber about 1618; the monogramist W. R. (probably Roessler) (Illustration IV), a very accomplished technician; and the monogramist M. S. (probably Schmertzenreich). In nearby Auburg, the art of painting on fayence started a little later than in Nuremburg probably around 1683, the most prominent there being Bartholomaeus Seuter who died in 1754.

Illustration III: By Abraham Helmhack: This fayence jug with silver-gilt mountings dates from the late 17th Century.

Illustration III: By Abraham Helmhack: This fayence jug with silver-gilt mountings dates from the late 17th Century.

With the invention of porcelain by Böttger more and more artist painters were engaged by the Dresden and Meissen factories. But as we said, working conditions were not good and the management, always fearing that the secret of porcelain manufacture would be stolen, kept the painters in a kind of semi-captivity. No wonder that some of them tried to escape and then worked many fayence factories that of course couldn’t make porcelain at that time a traveled along dissatisfied, always hoping for a better reward for their artistic quality.

One of those was Adam Friedrich von Loewenfinck, working from 1736-1754. (Illustration V.) His career started in Meissen from where he fled to Bayreuth and after employment at the factories of Ansbach, Fulda and Hoech where he worked together with the gift painter Georg Friedrich Hess, he finally settled in Hagenau where he started small fayence factory of his own. Loewenfinck can be considered as the foremost painter on fayence using the style and manner of the painting on porcelain.  After his death his widow Seraphine, also a painter, ably managed her husband’s property for quite a while!

We return now to the aforementioned Bartholomaeus Seuter, an interesting man possessing great versatility. Out of a known family of goldsmiths and etchers, he followed in his father’s footsteps as a goldsmith adding to this profession the art of painting on fayence, porcelain, copper and silk dyeing. As a contemporaneous writer mentions in 1729, Seuter had quite a collection of Italian majolica. The date of his first signed work, a jug, is 1717, but we know that at this early time he also painted on porcelain obtaining his ware probably from Dresden. With him we can close the line of prominent fayence hausmaler. Of course there have been quite a number of also-goods and mediocre ones, but to deal with them would by far surpass the limit of one article.

Illustration IV: Adoration of the Magi Jug: This fayence piece was decorated by an unidentified artist known as the monogramist W. R.

Illustration IV: Adoration of the Magi Jug: This fayence piece was decorated by an unidentified artist known as the monogramist W. R.

The same town of Augsburg was the place of the small establishment owned and managed by a very remarkable porcelain painter Johann Aufenwerth, who died in 1728. He also started as a goldsmith, but after he had turned to porcelain and established his workshop this became his only craft in which he was ably assisted by his daughter Sabina. There are fine cups and saucers in iron red and purple surrounded by delicate golden ornaments, whole services, tea and coffee pots, tea caddies and sugar bowls. It seems that the ware came from Saxony. Frequently the artist used etchings after Watteau and others, or peasant scenes as models, at other times Chinese motifs. He never succeeded in making porcelain himself, but he always experimented with color and it was tragic that when in his last years he finally was successful, Meissen stopped sending him undecorated ware.

The art of painting in translucid enamel colors on gold ground is said to have been introduced by an acquaintance of Böttger in Meissen named Christian K. Hunger. We don’t know where and when this Hunger was born or where he died but we know that he was a rascal if there ever was one. He pretended to have solved the mystery of porcelain and for quite a time fooled his employers from the famous DuPacquier, director of the imperial factory in Vienna, to the King of Sweden and the Empress Elizabeth of Russia.

After one year in Vienna he had to flee to Venice where he succeeded in making some kind of porcelain with the information he had “learned” from a certain Stoetzel a former Meissen alchemist. Exposed as an unscrupulous swindler, he had to leave in 1724. Five years later he pops up in Sweden and Denmark and in 1744 we find him in Russia again promising fantastic achievements and using all kinds of subterfuge. After 1748 we lose his track, probably he ended in poverty and jail. This man Hunger was not exactly a hausmaler because he really was employed by all these different factories, but of course he painted some of his pieces that are quite charming in his very special manner at home, signed them, and presented them as proof of his artistic achievement whenever he was seeking a new position in his adventurous career.

Illustration V: Adoration of the Shepherds: The plague was decorated by Adam Friedrich von Lowenfinck between 1741 and 1744 when he was working at Fulda.

Illustration V: Adoration of the Shepherds: Decorated by Adam Friedrich von Lowenfinck between 1741 and 1744 when he was working at Fulda.

Also on the borderline as a factory painter, painting at home and secretly, was Christian F. Herold, employed in Meissen in 1725. When his “sideline” finally was detected in 1764 there was more than ample proof for his guilt. But former private patrons came to his rescue. He evaded severe punishment, managed to be retained by the factory and was pensioned two years before his death in 1779. Noteworthy are his gold relief decorated cups and tabatieres combining polychrome paintings with a gold relief border.

The scene now shifts to another part of Germany, Silesia, adjacent to Saxonia. Here Ignaz Bottengruber (Illustration VI), a citizen of the capital, Breslau, considered as the best of his contemporaneous painter-artists on porcelain, was of different character and format. He was a diligent, conscientious worker, starting as a miniature painter. Only his marriage date, 1720, is recorded; it was shortly afterwards that he had the chance of his life in the person of the wealthy patron, a lawyer, George Pauli, who commissioned him to decorate many pieces, especially several services. These, known as the gods service, the military and the hunting services, are probably the highlight of his career. As models for his decoration, he liked figures expressing power or joy of life. Humorous scenes, battle scenes, hunting scenes are depicted in a rich, polychrome pallette, and the composition always shows balance and power.

Illustration VI: B. F. Bottengruber, Breslau, C. 1730: The decoration is a central mythological scene surrounded by elaborate scroll work done in gold which completely covers this saucer.

Illustration VI: B. F. Bottengruber, Breslau, C. 1730: The decoration is a central mythological scene surrounded by elaborate scroll work done in gold which completely covers this saucer.

With him we mention the first amateur porcelain painter of nobility, his pupil, Carl Ferdinand von Wolfsburg. Growing up in a cultured atmosphere — his father was farmer, historian, collector of watches and mathematical instruments — he became mayor of Oppein, a town not far from Breslau in 1742. In porcelain painting he found his big hobby and vocation; his last work dates from 1756. The second amateur out of the nobility was von Bressler, Mayor of Breslau in 1766.

A somehow similar fate as Bottengruber had another Silesian artist, Preussler. He, also, had the good fortune to find a wealthy patron who kept him busy for the long period of seven years. It is of interest that probably unable to get undecorated meissen ware after a certain time, he also painted on Chinese porcelain.

The prototype of an itinerant artist was Josef Philippe Danhoeffer from Vienna. He came to Bayreuth in 1737 where he introduced the decor of the early Vienna porcelain of the DuPacquier time adapting it to fayence. Eight factories in short succession employed him for a while. Finally he settled in Ludwigsburg in Suebea where he died in 1790.

Illustration VII: By Jacob Helchis, Circa 1747: A plate and cover dish decorated with a formalized landscape, deer and hunters. Note the finial in the form of a Chinese man.

Illustration VII: By Jacob Helchis, Circa 1747: A plate and cover dish decorated with a formalized landscape, deer and hunters. Note the finial in the form of a Chinese man.

For daintiness of style and coloring Jacob Helchis (Illustration VII), born in Trieste, is well liked, we find him in Vienna, 1746 and 1747, and later in Nymphenburg site of the Royal Bavarian porcelain factory.

If Dresden and Meissen have been world famous centers of porcelain manufacture haven’t there been many fine hausmaler? The answer is “no,” because restrictions for any outside activity became more and more severe as time went on. An order of 1723, for example, stipulated that of each service the teapot and the sugar bowl should be marked underglaze K.P.M., meaning Royal Porcelain Manufacture, in order to identify the genuine ware. Nevertheless pieces slipped out and we find sometimes good decorations on discolored or warped pieces. — Illustration VIII.

From Saxony it is a stone’s throw to Bohemia, a country always prominent in the art of glass making, cutting and painting. Some of the experience attained in this profession was extended to the decorating of porcelain when Franz Ferdinand Mayer-Pressnitz probably starting 1747 established his own workshop. There is some lack of good composition and we may find fault with some of his rather hastily drawn gold ornaments but at his tune his work was highly appreciated and had both followers and imitators.

A singular artist who had his own method in decorating porcelain was Kanonikus von dem Busch, from Hildesheim in the province of Hanover, 1704 to 1779. He really didn’t paint hut scratched the surface with a diamond, making a kind of needlepoint rubbing black in his very subtle lines. So we can say that he practically ruined the glaze and it may be that therefore his manner which is quite attractive remained unique without any imitators.

Illustration VIII: By An Unknown Artist: This round vessel on three paw feet with cover and handle has a Chinoisserie decoration in iron red probably done at Meissen early in the 18th Century.

Illustration VIII: By An Unknown Artist: This round vessel on three paw feet with cover and handle has a Chinoisserie decoration in iron red probably done at Meissen early in the 18th Century.

Out of Vienna, the famous Austrian center of porcelain manufacture, not many fine pieces decorated at home and signed by individuals have come to the fore. The reason may be that the management followed the sound policy of engaging good professional painters and paid them well; even if some of them had the privilege of painting at home probably there was little urge to do so for men fully employed in a good job.

When porcelain became plentiful and of course cheaper, when the French Royal factory of Sevres outshone all other factories, when the vogue for sculptural porcelain, the figurines, became epidemic, the hausmaler deteriorated and finally petered out.

Some factories have given these individual artists the name “Pfuscher” meaning bunglers, botchers. Such vilification, probably caused by jealousy, envy and keen competition, certainly is not merited. The value of the hausmaler lies in the pioneering initiative and the incentive they gave the factories to equal their work or to surpass it.

This article originally appeared in American Collector magazine, a publication which ran from 1933-1948 and served antique collectors and dealers.

3 comments so far

  1. ronald borress Says:

    I have a jardiniere with bronze and porcelain and the mark in insised with 2 circles together with 6 point stars similar to Hochst and letters KFy and N27 and I see in the book of pocelain a mark similar by artist Ferdinand Wolfsburg. Could it also be Doccia.It is a feience painting of a water scene with trees and flowers.

    Thanking you Ronald Borress

  2. sarah siddle Says:

    i have a vase that i am trying to find out its origin and age . its about six inches tall painted with brambles,x mas roses and other english plants with a green back ground .however on the bottom it has Austria printed and the letter Q and what looks like an O or another Q

  3. ken goff Says:

    I have a plate marked silisia and a tent with a crown in the center with the initials pk above it on the back. It is beige with flowers around the edge which seem to be
    daffodils and violets. The outer edge is brown with gold dots. Any thoughts?


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